Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc delights Monza fans with pole for Italian Grand Prix

World champion Max Verstappen second fastest but drops down after penalty

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Charles Leclerc put his Ferrari on pole position for Sunday's Italian Grand Prix to the delight of the Monza crowd.

Leclerc pulled out all the stops with his final run at the Temple of Speed to send the Tifosi wild, with Max Verstappen having to settle for second.

Verstappen will likely line up in fourth, with the world champion among nine of 20 drivers punished for exceeding their number of allocated engine parts.

Carlos Sainz, Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton qualified third, fourth and fifth respectively, but the trio also face grid sanctions. Hamilton will start from the back after taking on his fourth engine of the season – one more than he is allowed.

George Russell finished sixth but takes advantage of those above being penalised to join Leclerc on the front row. Lando Norris qualified seventh but is set to start third in his McLaren once the grid penalties are applied.

"It’s amazing, it wasn’t an easy qualifying session. I knew there was quite a bit of potential in the car," sad a thrilled Leclerc.

"I knew in this last lap I had to put everything together and I managed to do it. Very happy with the lap, very happy with the performance, the feeling with the car is amazing.

"I just took much more risks, it was the last lap, I knew I had to find a lot of performance there and it worked out."

Hamilton’s yellow 44 on the side of his Mercedes has been turned to black in honour of the Queen, with a plethora of tributes being paid up and down the paddock to the long-serving monarch.

A one-minute silence was staged ahead of practice on Friday, with another to follow on the grid in the moments before Sunday’s race. The Italian president, Sergio Mattarella, will be present for the formalities.

Mattarella, and the majority of the 125,000 fans expected for race day, will be rooting for a Ferrari win with Leclerc out to stop Verstappen’s run of four consecutive victories.

Verstappen is on course to secure his second world title in as many seasons – possibly as early as the next round in Singapore – after winning 10 of the 15 rounds staged so far.

But Leclerc, 109 points behind the Red Bull driver, will be out to restore pride in a season in which Ferrari – through mistakes by man and machine – have failed to deliver upon early promise.

Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell observe a minute's silence before the first practice session. AFP

The presence of John Elkann, the CEO of Ferrari, will intensify pressure on the team from Maranello, but Leclerc’s superb lap and Verstappen’s penalty will hand the Monegasque a head-start.

Red Bull’s Verstappen, subjected to a handful of boos by the partisan Italian crowd, said: “Over one lap it may not be the best, but for tomorrow, it can be quite strong.

“It was a good lap, I enjoyed it, and it will be an interesting battle tomorrow. I have to stay out of trouble at the beginning and then work my way forward.”

Nyck de Vries was handed his race debut at the 11th hour after London-born Alex Albon was ruled out for the rest of the weekend with appendicitis.

De Vries, 27, has taken part in three practice sessions this year, most recently with Aston Martin here on Friday.

And the Dutch driver performed commendably on his qualifying debut, qualifying ahead of Nicholas Latifi in the other Williams.

De Vries finished 13th, three places above Latifi, and he will be propelled up the starting order once the grid sanctions are applied.

Updated: September 10, 2022, 3:50 PM
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